Fight between cab driver and passengers leads to lawsuit

Posted at: 01/07/2013 4:51 PM
Updated at: 01/07/2013 6:12 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A fight caught on tape between a cab driver and two passengers has now launched a lawsuit against multiple parties, including a Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputy.

The two men left the Copper Lounge, got into a Yellow Cab and headed up Central Avenue the night of January 18th, 2012.  After driving a few blocks, the cab driver pulled over in front of Shogun Sushi. At that point, everybody got out of the car, and a surveillance camera captured what happened next.

In the video, the driver, identified as John Tolbert, takes a direct swing at the face of one of the passengers. The passenger fights back, and over the next few seconds, the two spill over out into the street. The other passenger, identified as Josue Ayala, stands there with his hands in his pockets as the fight ensues.

This all went down after the passengers allegedly voiced their frustration to Tolbert for having to wait over an hour for a ride. "The video clearly shows that the cabbie was the aggressor," Ayala's attorney, Sam Bregman, said.

Bregman said Ayala attempted to pay Tolbert the outstanding fare of $4.60, which Tolbert refused.

According to the lawsuit, as Ayala and his friend started to walk home, Tolbert called out to a sheriff's deputy, identified as Charles Asbury, alleging, "Ayala attacked him from behind and held him, while Ayala's friend punched him in the face."

"A simple little bit of police work done by this deputy would have showed Mr. Ayala was in no way involved in this," Bregman said.

After saying "Let's play a little game," Asbury demanded Ayala tell him his friend's name, according to the document.

"This deputy had the audacity then because Mr. Ayala didn't want to give up his friend’s name, of arresting Mr. Ayala and charging him with strong armed robbery," Bregman said.

As far as Bregman is concerned, that was a blatant abuse of power.

"This is a deputy that doesn't understand people's constitutional rights and uses his ultimate power, the power to arrest someone and put them in jail, in a completely inappropriate way," Bregman said.  "Mr. Asbury, who's a Bernalillo County deputy, obviously needs to go back and get some remedial work when it comes to what the constitution means."

No one at the Sheriff's Office would comment on the lawsuit, but did clarify Asbury is still a deputy.

KOB Eyewitness News 4 was also turned away from Yellow Cab, and was only told Tolbert is still employed as a driver.